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Murray's extended misery, short shrift for Stosur, more mail

Is Andy Murray about to become the next Guillermo Coria?--Simha, Atlanta

• Whoa. Murray is in a serious slump right now -- and has been since the seventh round of the Australian Open. But we're talking about a player who's already reached the semis or better at three of the four majors, has a winning record over Roger Federer, has won Masters Series events on multiple surfaces and so forth. Comparing him to Coria -- an undersized player who lost a major final he should have won and was never the same player again -- is way too harsh.

Lots of Murray-bashing lately and it's not altogether unwarranted. It's not just that's he losing -- it's how and to whom. And his attitude: Even in the best of times, the sun seldom shines in Murray's world. But lately, he's walking around under his own private ash cloud. Nevertheless, this is a good time to issue the reminder that careers are not linear and even the best can play like dogs for a few months. He'll be back. Have faith.

I'm a longtime reader and I look forward to your columns every week. However, I think it is a little unfair for you to suggest that Sam Stosur won the Charleston title merely because better players retired. Stosur was dominating -- yes, dominating -- world No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki before Wozniacki sprained her ankle. You certainly should have mentioned that Wozniacki obviously does not move well on clay and that Stosur brilliantly exploited this weakness by moving Wozniacki all over the court. In fact, Wozniacki sprained her ankle by trying to run down one of Stosur's deft drop shots, so Wozniacki's retirement is partly attributable to Stosur's excellent play. Instead of basically attributing Stosur's win to dumb luck, you could have remarked on how much she has improved over the past year and how she totally outclassed Vera Zvonareva in the final. And you could have mentioned that Stosur was utterly dominant all week with her huge serve and forehand. Additionally, you could have pointed out that Stosur's second serve was better than most players' first serves. Finally, you could reasonably have speculated that if Stosur can use her big weapons with anywhere near this level of consistency for the rest of the year, then she has a great chance of cracking the top five . In conclusion, please look back at your comments and admit that you gave Stosur short shrift.--Will, Columbus, Ohio

• The item was meant to discuss the desperate need to address injuries. But fair point. All credit to Stosur, who not only has established herself as a top 10 player, but also has become a threat on all surfaces. In addition to her serve, her forehand is a deadly weapon; and she's one of those athletes who, one suspects, would be a point guard (what ever happened to Michele Timms?) or a soccer star had she not picked up tennis. The one remaining question mark is her competitive resolve. Too often, she seems to be going great guns in the first week of a Slam -- and then goes quietly in the fourth round or quarters.

Kim Clijsters' loss in Marbella was not good, but she has not played on clay in three years, so it takes time -- and I think she will get better. Keep in mind also that she won the U.S. Open in her THIRD tournament back. And losing in three tight sets was a lot less disconcerting than losing in two easy sets, no?--Shery, Austin/Hong Kong

• Sort of. She hadn't played on clay in years. She was coming off a grueling event in Miami. She had flown across an ocean. Her daughter is starting to get into the various High School Musical sound tracks, which makes her parents want to stick screwdrivers in their eyes. (OK, I made up that one, but it felt cathartic to write it.) Whatever. I still say a top five player losing to a player outside the top 250 is a gargantuan upset.

Just an aside: Rafael Nadal's current clothing line is very much an athletic version of the clothes a trendy man in his early 20s would wear with his $525,000 watch. I'm sure 20 years from now, it'll be as embarrassing as any other tennis trend, but I have to say, your weak-sauce jokes about his shorts are reaching "get off my lawn you damn kids" levels.--Chris Davis, Boston

• Dude -- Are the kids still staying dude? I've ordered them off my lawn so I don't pick up lingo like "weak sauce" -- I don't get it: I'm advocating against plaid and in favor of sleeveless, Day-Glo Lycra. And you're accusing me of sounding old? This confuses me. And now I need a nap.

Was there any reason why Leizel Huber played without Cara Black this week? Or just a needed change?--Cal, Australia

• I gather that, yes, after Miami, Huber and Black have decided to take a break. Permanent or not, how about we pause to recognize a truly outstanding partnership? I was amused to see that Huber played alongside Nadia Petrova last week in Charleston. Time heals all wounds, I guess.

Why am I just now learning that John McPhee has a book about tennis? What else haven't you told us?--Mike, U.S.

• The Menendez brothers played tennis at Princeton? Rhode Island is the smallest state geographically but has the longest name? Janet Jackson's big break was playing Willis Drummond's girlfriend, Charlene, on Diff'rent Strokes? Fatboy Slim was once in the Housemartins?

Geno Auriemma? I'll tell you who needs to be coaching women's tennis: Martina Hingis. We'd have the added bonus of nicknaming any successful player under her guidance, Pride of Chucky.--Jason, Leander, Texas

• Agree. Even if there weren't a ready-made nickname. Even at age 16, she was a brilliant tactician. She had a great ability to recall her opponents and their tendencies. And, heaven knows, she has no problem expressing herself.

You're right about the whole Augusta thing and the green jacket. I mean, no one in tennis would demean themselves by rocking some cheesy jacket after winning a big event, would they? Especially if it had something lame like their number of Slams on it. I'm just glad tennis players don't resort to such Velveeta-like tendencies.--Craig Berry, Park Forest, Ill.

• Very good. But at least there was a spirited debate after this and Tennis Nation didn't simply let it slide, chalking it up to "a tradition unlike any other."

In the slim chance that Wayne Odesnik is found innocent, will Andy Roddick, Same Querrey and all the others who have slammed him apologize? I doubt it. I suspect they'll claim they still think he is guilty regardless of the outcome. How about you -- what would your reaction be?--Joe, Bridgeport, W.Va.

• It would probably behoove all of us to stop speculating and just see how this plays out. Without knowing the specifics, I stand by my point: When you've issued a guilty plea in a criminal proceeding for transport of a performance-enhancing drug -- again, this is not just a charge; this is an admission -- you should not be allowed to resume playing while awaiting your fate from your sport's governing body. Even in the unlikely event that there is exculpatory evidence or mitigating circumstances, you should lie low and let the process play out. Fortunately, in a decisive victory for common sense, Odesnik has agreed to a provisional suspension, and the ITF is revisiting its policy on this matter.

While we're here, let me throw this out to the lawyers in the audience: As a member of at least a quasi-players' organization, should Odesnik have had some obligation to disclose his situation to the ATP and ITF? I'm told that they were essentially blindsided by the report that he had plead guilty. Surely the crisis could have been managed better had there been more advance warning. (As for Odesnik's reception among his colleagues, note the Mahesh Bhupathi item below.)

You wrote this the other day: "Most recently, the U.S. Open National Playoffs concept -- whereby winners are granted a wild card into the men's and women's U.S. Open qualifying draws -- is an outright winner. Play kicked off over the weekend and the winners will be crowned during the first events of the U.S. Open Series this July."This is a great idea, but it was first started by Mark Baron for his ATP event in Delray Beach, Fla. It has been a big success for several years and so the USTA decided to adopt it. Please give credit where credit is due. This Delray Beach event has often taken the lead in promoting new ideas and activities, e.g. fans could send photos from the event taken with cell phones, directly to the Delray Web site; decorating the court with lavish murals; producing a free Tennis on the Avenue event for all visitors to the area; being the first to incorporate a Champions Tour event along with the regular ATP tournament.--Betty Owen, Delray Beach, Fla.

• For the first time, I attended the Delray event a few weeks ago. Piggybacking on Betty's remarks, I was impressed with the many small touches: The Bryan brothers played music on site; there were contests and murals and legends matches, along with mahi-mahi sandwiches in the food court. A lot of value added.

Can we all accept that Roger Federer is not the invincible machine anymore and stop making a big deal over his losses at IW and Miami (while hardly acknowledging the exits of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, and the Bryans brothers)? Why do people still expect Federer to win every tournament he enters? He is being pressed more and more often, even in the Slams. It's not 2006-07 anymore, people.--J.L., Rancho Bernardo, Calif.

• This is the beast Federer has created: standards as high as the general admission seats at Arthur Ashe Stadium. So it is that every loss becomes a referendum on the health of his career. On the other hand, when you win three of the last four majors -- the last one in thoroughly dominating fashion -- it's news when you fall in successive events (on the same surface as your previous Slam win, no less) to Marcos Baghdatis and Tomas Berdych. Especially when you squander a match point on both occasions. Does it mean that Federer is washed up? No. But is it worthy of attention and discussion? Sure.

This has been puzzling me. If you look at the guys, their hitting arm is always bigger than the other. Just look at Federer and Nadal. But the girls doesn't seem to have this problem. Their arms look balanced and proportioned.--Carl, Singapore

• Interesting question. I suspect that a lot of this is tied to the one-handed backhand, but it obviously doesn't explain the case with Nadal. Someone with more knowledge of exercise science, physiology, biomechanics, etc., should feel free to chime in.

OK, so he got his hat handed to him at Monte Carlo -- but how about some props for Fernando Verdasco? In the past few months he has won one title, reached the semis at Indian Wells and finals of Monte Carlo, all while attempting to find a new stick. I've noticed Technifibre, Yonex and now Dunlop rackets in his hands this year! He's hitting a nice stride!--Jon, Seattle

• Half full: Yes, Verdasco's result of late have been encouraging. There's a lot of game there, always has been, and it's clear he's maturing. Glass half empty: Boy, it has to be demoralizing to reach a final of a big-ticket event and come within a game of getting double-bageled. We've talked before about Verdasco being one of the players who can clearly hit cruise control and reach Slams quarters and nest in that 8-12 range, make his millions, date the pretty girls and model underwear. Is he willing to make the investment necessary for a full-fledged assault on the summit? Let's follow him closely these next eight or so weeks.

I think you can add PR specialist to Serena's list of moonlighting jobs -- she seems to be doing more PR for Green Day than herself these days (see Twitter posts).--Mary Jo Murray, Uxbridge, Mass.

• This gives us a chance to link this.

On the topic of tennis statistics:

Rish of Melbourne, Australia, notes: "Tennis Australia has put together a system where they can computerize all that data and use it to arm our kids like Lleyton and Sammy. I guess there's something they're doing right. Cheers."

Chip of Denver,: "I wonder if Martin (Tacoma, Wash.) is using "My Tennis Stats" for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad? Because these stats are easy to track with my app. I looked at the last match I tracked (Roddick v. Ljubicic in the Indian Wells final), and Martin is right. Both players won the game 100% (3/3) when they won the 30-30 point. However, the same number of games went to deuce (2) when the score was 40-15 as 30-30. Again, all these stats are super simple to track with My Tennis Stats! P.S. Love the 'bag, one of these days I'll come up with a 'real' tennis question to ask, and not just a plug for my app!"

Skip of Philadelphia writes: "I'll add this one-two punch: percentage of break points successfully defended, and percentage of breaks won with the first break point. I don't know how much you'd change your tactics if you knew this, but as a fan they'd give us a quantifiable ranking for toughness."

Andrew of New York City: "You thought you knew sabermetrics? Theeeese are sabermetrics."

• The Williams sisters as speakers in Chattanooga.

• Stay tuned for Venus Williams' book, coming out in late June. I'm not sure what I'm at liberty to reveal, but suffice to say it's not your typical sports memoir.

• Roddick, talking to Dan Patrick about his chances/merits of making the Hall of Fame: "I think based on the track record of people who are there, the precedent has been set for those to be Hall of Fame numbers."

Alan Gnani of Atlanta notes: "On his Twitter feed, Mahesh Bhupathi tweeted that there were lots of skits performed at the Monte Carlo players' party (Agassi-Sampras feud, Nadal-Shakira video, Jackson 5 acts, etc.). This comment caught my eye: 'Sorry about the quality but best I could do with my BB.. Of course there were acts on Wayne Odesnik and Tiger Woods.. ' Many players had openly expressed their anger toward Odesnik; now it's clear that he's become a big joke. Your point is well taken that, for the sake of tennis, he should just disappear for a while. Locker room must be real fun with Wayne around."

Helen of Philadelphia: "RE: Ticket re-sales. This year for the first time, Roland Garros is creating its own in-house version of Craigslist -- a forum where people who find they don't need their tickets can sell them to others who do."

• Regarding last Sunday's final, Alex Ketaineck of Madison, N.J., notes: "[Among] the men's final in Monte Carlo and the women's finals in Charleston and Barcelona, the losers combined to win a grand total of six games. Three players combined to win one set."

Brian U. of New York, N.Y.: "For your book recommendations, I would add Jack Kramer's autobiography in the late '70s. Great read, and for this thirtysomething, I found it a great perspective on an earlier era of tennis I knew little about."

Ron, Yorkshire, U.K.: "Regarding tennis book recommendations, one of my favorites is Hard Courts [by John Feinstein]."

Anthony, our unofficial Australia correspondent, sends this link: a slap in the face to Paul McNamee.

• Scott of Providence, R.I. has long-lost siblings: Querrey and pro golfer Hunter Mahan.

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